The Montana State University-Northern men’s basketball team responded to a loss to Lewis-Clark State by bombarding the University of Great Falls Argos with 16 3-pointers in a 62-49 win last Thursday night in Great Falls.
Tonight, inside the Armory Gymnasium, the Lights get an opportunity to do it all over again.
The No. 15 Lights play host to the rival Argos tonight at 8, and just like when they visited UGF last Thursday, the Lights are looking to bounce back from a loss to LC State. After beating the Argos, Northern headed west, only to fall to LCSC 56-45 last Saturday night, dropping MSU-N (18-5) into second place in the Frontier Conference at 6-3.
So tonight’s game is yet another bounce-back game for Northern. But it is for Argos (5-4, 14-9) too as UGF not only lost to the Lights at home last week, but also dropped a heartbreaking one-point loss at Montana Tech as well.
And though Northern shot 60 percent from the 3-point-line and made 11 first-half triples last Thursday night in the McLaughlin Center, MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse warns that performance has no bearing on tonight’s rematch.
“I would say both teams are coming into this game hungry, because we’re both coming off tough losses,” Huse said. “And every night is a new night. So come Friday night at 8 o’clock, that last game against UGF means nothing. We’re starting over with them and we just have to make sure we’re well prepped for what they do and hopefully, we can come out and play well again.”
And though tonight is a indeed a new night, the Argos will certainly have bad memories when thinking about the Lights, not only in last Thursday’s loss, but also the fact a UGF team hasn’t won in Havre in nearly a decade. Last season, MSU-N beat the Argos in the Armory in the regular season, than drubbed them in the Frontier Conference semifinals in March.
Still, the Argos are well-equipped to come to Havre and give the Lights a stern test. MSU-N and UGF are the No. 3 and No. 4 defensive team’s in the Frontier, respectively, while both squads can also put points on the board in a hurry. The Argos average 70 points per game, while the Lights also average 70, so on paper, the matchup is pretty even. UGF played 35 minutes of zone defense against the Lights last week, and Northern did well to shoot over the top of it. But for the most part this season, the Argos’ zone has been very effective, and they likely won’t change their approach tonight.
Individually, the Argos are led by the Frontier’s top scorer in junior Marcel Towns (6-2), who scores 20 points per game, and has the capability to put up huge numbers every night. MSU-N did a great job on Towns, holding him to 11 points last Thursday, his lowest output in league play this season, but he’s got plenty of weapons around him. In the paint, forwards James Holmes (6-6) and Naren Maynerd (6-6) combine to score 19 points and grab 11 rebounds, while 6-5 shooter Miguel Bocachica is a deadly scorer and tenacious defender, and point guard T.J. Harris (5-9) has done an excellent job in his first season as a starter, averaging nine points per game and dishing out nearly four assists per contest.
“UGF is having a really good season,” Huse said. “They are an athletic and talented team, and they can really get after you on both ends of the floor. So again, the last game really means nothing at this point. We know we have to be ready to go on Friday night, and we’re treating it like it’s a championship game, just
ike we do every night.”
And championships are what the Lights are chasing and the Argos will try to be another road block tonight. And though Northern has stumbled a bit, losing three of its last six league games, the Lights are still the defending Frontier champions and they are still playing at a high level.
Senior Devin Jackson paces Northern with 15 points per game, which is seventh-best in the Frontier. Jessie Vaughan adds 12 points per night, while Alfie Miller scores 11 and Roshawn West chips in with 10. MSU-N’s bench will also be key, not only tonight, but for the rest of the season. And sophomore reserve Corbin Pearson, along with Miller, leads a stout Northern bench. Pearson is averaging seven points and four rebounds off the bench, and he has been giving the Lights more and more quality minutes as the season has gone on.
And the Lights will be looking for 40 quality minutes against the talented Argos tonight. The rivalry between Northern and UGF has really heated up in recent years, and tonight’s battle should be another intense one, especially with so much at stake for both teams.
“We want to plays as well or better than we did last Thursday night,” Huse said. “But at the same time, we also want to correct some of the things we didn’t do well the last two times we played LC State. So if we can do that, we should be in a good position.”
“We know they’re (Argos) coming for us on Friday night,” Miller added. “So we want to play well again, especially coming off a tough loss at LC State. We know we need to come out with that same defensive intensity we had down there (Great Falls), and just make sure we play well on both ends of the floor.”
Tonight’s game between Northern and UGF tips off at 8 inside the Armory Gymnasium. MSU-N is back on the road to face Montana Tech and Carroll College next weekend.
No. 15 Lights (6-3, 18-5) vs Great Falls (5-4, 14-9) tonight at 8 p.m. in the Armory Gymnasium
Radio: 92.5 KPQX FM
MSU-N Probable Starters
G Roshawn West, 6-0, Jr.
G Devin Jackson, 6-1, Sr.
G Allan Brown, 6-1, Jr.
F Will Perry, 6-4, Jr.
F Jesse Vaughan, 6-5, Jr.